6 Ways to Force Quit Mac Applications

Mar 2, 2012 - 19 Comments

Finder Do you need to force quit an unresponsive Mac OS X app? Is your Mac seeing the infamously dreaded spinning beachball of death? Is an app failing to respond to any input? Maybe you have an errant process or two? When any of the above happens, you’ll probably want to forcibly quit the application in question, and that’s what we’ll cover with this walkthrough, showing you how to force quit apps on a Mac with six different methods.

Whatever your skill level with Mac OS X, you’ll find a way to forcibly exit out of an app. Take a moment to remember a few keyboard shortcuts or sequences now ,and save yourself a hassle later when Mac apps start acting up. And yes, these tricks work in all versions of OS X.

1) Use a Keyboard Shortcut for “Force Quit Applications” Window in Mac OS X

Starting with one of the best and easiest is the system wide Force Quit function: Hit Command+Option+Escape from anywhere to bring up the simple “Force Quit Applications” window, then click on the app name to select, followed by clicking the “Force Quit” button, this will end the app immediately.

Force Quit on a Mac

Think of this as a simplified version of Activity Monitor, and it’s also a great keystroke to remember to use since it allows for quickly ceasing multiple apps. If you’re going to remember nothing else for force quitting apps in OS X, remember this keystroke: Command + Option + Escape

Force quit Mac applications with a keyboard shortcut

That Force Quit keyboard shortcut is probably the best combination of easy and power when force quitting apps in Mac OS X, since you can access it with a keystroke, select and force quit multiple apps if necessary, and summon it from anywhere.

2) Force Quit Currently Active Mac App with the Keyboard

Hold down Command+Option+Shift+Escape for a second or two until the app forcibly closes. Be sure to do this while the app you want to force quit is the foremost application on the Mac, as it will force quit whatever is active when held down.

This is not well known, but offers perhaps the quickest way to force quit the foreground application in Mac OS X and a very good keyboard shortcut to remember.

3) Force Quitting Apps from the Dock

Option + Right Click on an apps icon in the Dock to bring up the “Force Quit” option, selecting this will kill the app without any confirmation.

Force quit a Mac app from the Dock Icon with Option key modifier

4) Force Quit an App from the Apple Menu

Hold the Shift Key and click on the  Apple menu to find “Force Quit [Application Name]”.

How to Force Quit an App from the Apple menu in OS X

This is easy to remember but not necessarily the most powerful method, since sometimes an application is completely unresponsive and the menus are inaccessible.

5) Use Activity Monitor to Force Quit Apps

Activity Monitor is a powerful way to forcibly quit any app, task, daemon, or process running on Mac OS X. You can find it in /Applications/Utilities/ or open it from Spotlight with Command+Space and then type ‘Activity Monitor’ and the return key. Using Activity Monitor is very easy: Select the process name or ID you wish to kill (unresponsive apps will usually appear as red), and hit the red “Quit Process” button.

Force quit apps from Activity Monitor in Mac OS X

You can think of this as the Mac equivalent to a task manager from the Windows world and a more complex version of the second tips Force Quit window. If one of the previous methods fails, this will almost certainly work.

6) Using the Terminal & kill Command

If all else fails, using the command line is a surefire way to force an app or process to quit by issuing the low-level kill command. Launch the Terminal and type one of the following commands:

killall [processname]

For example, “killall Safari” would kill all instances of the Safari process. If you know the process id, which you can find with the ps or ‘ps aux’ command. Aim kill at that process specifically:

kill -9 [pid]

Force quit an app from the command line with the kill command

The kill commands will take out just about anything, and sometimes have the side effect of not honoring Versions, Window Restore, and Auto-Save, so be cautious of potential data loss.

Force Quit Mac Apps from the Activity Monitor

What’s your preferred method of forcibly quitting an app? Mine is the Command+Option+Escape trick, or by using Activity Monitor, but I often turn to the command line for more complex situations.

Remember, when you force quit an app, you will lose any unsaved data in that application. Don’t forget that.

Bonus: Force Quit on iOS

OK it’s not quite the Mac, but it’s useful to know for mobile users: from the iOS side of things, you can force quit apps on iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, by holding down the Power button until the slide to power option appears, and then hold the Home button until the app closes.

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Posted by: Paul Horowitz in Mac OS X, Tips & Tricks, Troubleshooting

19 Comments

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  1. Diane says:

    Thank you! This is great information…

  2. KhaBu says:

    i Just loved the first one … thank you

  3. Bruno says:

    kill like a boss:
    # Kill Like a Boss
    Killall() {
    QSTRING=$*
    PROC=`ps aux | grep -i ${QSTRING} | grep -v grep | awk ‘{print $2}’`
    if [ ! -n “$PROC” ]; then
    echo “0 PID found with the matching String: \”${QSTRING}\”.”
    else
    NUMPROC=`echo $PROC | awk ‘{print NF}’`
    echo “Found $NUMPROC PIDs with the matching String: \”${QSTRING}\”.”
    sudo kill -9 $PROC
    echo “All process Killed.”
    fi
    }

  4. Dave says:

    Had NO idea about the first one (adding shift to command-option-escape): NICE or the last one (killing apps on iOS). Thankfully, I have had very few problems with stuck apps on iOS.

  5. […] Ways to Force Quit Mac Applications – http://osxdaily.com/2012/03/02/force-quit-mac-apps – Ways to deal with the dreaded spinning beachball of […]

  6. Sunny says:

    Thank you for the information. Brilliant. I used # 5 – Activity monitor. Works well. Thank you.

  7. lee potter says:

    tried all six to try to quit frozen iphoto, none of them worked?

  8. Niku says:

    Finally! I finally got rid of it thanks to you and Activity Monitor. I just wonder why none of the other sites I searched suggested Activity Monitor as a way of disposing of files that you couldn’t get to go away any other way. Thanks again.

  9. dick ludlow says:

    I have always just turned off the power to my mac, then on again. Is this bad for the computer?

  10. Philippe Qwadjo says:

    Very usefull.
    The tip 3 is very efficient
    Thanks a lot.

  11. […] menu is that it allows you to actually take action on running apps directly, letting you force quit them if they have become errant or are shown in red font, which signifies they are not responding […]

  12. […] and ‘continuing’ a process, but a stop is not to be confused with the more aggressive killing or force quitting applications and thus the terminology of pausing or halting is often easier to differentiate the […]

  13. Julee says:

    Thank you so so soooo much! This helped a TON!! :)

  14. Thanks for the tip #2 but that’s too many keystrokes to remember. So I programmed one of the function keys using Keyboard Maestro. Now I can just hit one key and force quit an app. :-)

  15. Gayle N says:

    long long before x86 mac land there was something like

    control shift open-apple 2

    to force some deep system magic

    Sound familiar? I have been flogging interweb search engines to no avail though now I’m likely to find /this/ comment soonventurally

    XmppTexting: lovemeosx@jabber.otr.im/

    • wongea says:

      Command+Option+Shift+Power key will reboot the Mac, that does not force quit an application. You can hold down Command+Shift+Q to Force Quit an application in OS X.

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